July 23, 2016

"But however promising adenosine may be as a treatment, the findings from this research do not prove that acupuncture itself 'works.'"

"For one thing, the researchers did not show that the release of adenosine was specific to acupuncture. Acupuncture needles might cause adenosine to flood the surrounding tissue, but so might a hard pinch, or applied pressure, or any number of other physical insults. In fact, both of the studies found that when adenosine was turned on in mouse tissue by other mechanisms, the pain response was equal to or better than the response generated by acupuncture."

From a Scientific American article currently titled "Research Casts Doubt on the Value of Acupuncture/Scientific studies show that the procedure is full of holes."

(The original title was "The Acupuncture Myth." I'm contemplating why the title was changed and thinking the magazine has some standards about what counts as a "myth" and that if you have utterly disproved something you are not yet in a position to call it a myth.)

ADDED: This article made me wonder how scientists can determine the extent to which a mouse feels pain. It can't point to one of the 10 pain faces on the chart. I found this article in Wired: "Mice Show Pain on Their Faces Just Like Humans":

20 comments:

mockturtle said...

the procedure is full of holes.

I love it!! :-D

Quaestor said...

All scientific truths are tentative, nor is it equipped to make value judgments. Science can only falsify; it cannot establish the absolute truth of any proposition, including "Acupuncture is a myth". Dropping myth from the original title I'm sure was an editorial decision intended to honor the scientific method.

Ann Althouse said...

I wonder how they know the extent to which a mouse feels pain?

Quaestor said...

I wonder how they know the extent to which a mouse feels pain?

PET scans?

mockturtle said...

I wonder how they know the extent to which a mouse feels pain?

PET scans?


Good one!

FullMoon said...

The difference is,after several centuries of practice, the acupuncturist knows where to put the needle.

rhhardin said...

Robert Burns To a mouse

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

Unknown said...

Their best laid plans aft gang agley, you know.

Jessica said...

I used to work in a lab measuring how hyperbaric oxygen affected pain in mice. We measured pain by how much they writhed (abdominal construction test).

mockturtle said...

gang aft agley, I believe...

Unknown said...

Okay, okay, as long as we're being picky about stupid accuracy let me denounce myself:


the penultimate stanza: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley"

Geez, Thing Explainer for me, I guess.

William said...

How many mice can dance on the tip of a pin?...........In a vague way, I feel that torturing white mice is wrong. I understand that it's in the interests of science, but it just feels wrong. Is there any way that they could perform these experiments on unborn fetuses? I wouldn't feel so squeamish then.

HT said...

Yes by all means, let's move away from pain relief that does not cause side effects or addiction and give it back to the drugs again. The article likely was written by someone who loathes alternative medicine. I share the frustration when we're talking about mystery powders to lower spikes in blood glucose instead of avoiding spikes through general sound eating practices, exercise and taking your meds when prescribed, but for chronic pain, for patients who stated it works, good for them and all the better to keep them away from medications with side effects and huge addiction possibilities (see any ED/any city's health statistics/current shortage of naloxone).

Interesting that adenosine which is an ER drug for tachycardia is involved in pain mediation. (Adenosine at least as an emergency drug is to be used cautiously if at all for people with heart block.)

Still, if it works, don't give it up.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

(1) I'm glad they struck "myth." Why play to the cheap seats? We're trying to get smarter, here, not to have Don Draper pat us on the head and tell us that, no matter what we're doing, we're okay.

(2) I'm struggling with "To a Louse." On YouTube, it seems that the go-to voice is righteous indignation. But the poem sure looks like a continuation of "To a Mouse" and the guy's sitting in church, for Christ's sake! If he's got hate in him while sitting on a pew then maybe he ought to get himself a better religion.

The problem I'm having is, basically, does he have the hots for Jeany? I mean, after all, the louse gets a special intimacy and she's too good for him. That would allow amused irony (had that been invented yet? Heh.) and account for the turnabout near the end but then he doesn't stick the landing because it's so abstract.

I'll keep working on it.

IMMINENT ORGANIC COGNITIVE DEFICIT BE DAMNED!!!!!11!!!!!!!

tim maguire said...

Every "scientific" examination of acupuncture that purports to prove it doesn't work, I always have the question, what do they mean by "works"? It clearly works for some things, clearly not for others. Proving it won't help pancreatic cancer doesn't prove it didn't fix my chronically stiff neck (which my medical doctor told me I'd have to learn to live with).

gbarto said...

I didn't read the article, but the quote makes it sound like acupuncture is like tightening a screw with a butter knife. It's not that it doesn't work, just that the job could be better done with more precise tools. I especially liked the comment about achieving the same effect with a hard pinch or other physical insult. Is that not what we call acupressure? It sounds to me like they proved this stuff works and have identified the mechanism. Or does it not count if you get the right result for the wrong reason?

mikee said...

Acupuncture for pain relief is not a "myth" because it works to reduce pain.
It just doesn't work any better than a lot of other things.

Were pain relief from acupuncture a myth, it would mean zero pain relief from acupuncture, or at least no more relief than from a placebo.

When fighting myths, one must know how to test their scientific validity.

FullMoon said...

tim maguire said... [hush]​[hide comment]

Every "scientific" examination of acupuncture that purports to prove it doesn't work, I always have the question, what do they mean by "works"? It clearly works for some things, clearly not for others. Proving it won't help pancreatic cancer doesn't prove it didn't fix my chronically stiff neck (which my medical doctor told me I'd have to learn to live with).


Ninety tear old relative was told only potential relief from "droopy head"would be from surgery. Acupuncture every Friday has helped her.

Peter said...

"Every "scientific" examination of acupuncture that purports to prove it doesn't work"

Well, acupuncture works as well as placebo, and placebos work. But that's not what's usually meant when one says a treatment is effective.

Of course, one can't compare acupuncture against nothing, because subjects can tell when someone's sticking needles into them. Thus, acupuncture placebo consists of sticking the needles into locations other than those where acupuncture theory says they should go.

So, perhaps there's some benefit to having needles stuck in you, but, acupuncture theory itself seems to be invalid.

Next up: chiropractic?

Unknown said...

I would like to understand the opposition to chiropractic. It certainly works for me when I have back pain, and some other musculoskeletal pain (e.g., plantar fasciitis) can be treated with like techniques. I don't say it will cure cancer or lose you forty pounds. But if you need to get an adjustment, you need an adjustment.

Acupressure, I learned a couple of tricks at summer camp long ago, a couple of places to pinch yourself to, say, make a headache go away, or change the nostril that is draining from right to left. Meh, but they do help with headaches and snot management.